Charisma aids identification?

Newby observation of id behavior (based on small sample and may be mad).

Butterfly observations seem to attract ID almost at once while plants take longer, if attract ID at all.

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It’s true that some taxa get IDs faster. I don’t think it’s so much charisma. Plants are very easy to add and observe and for whatever reason get less IDs compared with number observed.

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It also partially depends on where you are, for example there are more iNat participants from North America than elsewhere, so observations from there tend to have more eyes who are familiar with the species.

It is great that you’ve joined the site, and welcome, but some of it is also timing, you just happen to have joined right in the middle of by far the busiest weekend of the site for observations. This past weekend sees about a 500 percent increase in the number of records submitted due to the City Nature Challenge : so identifiers are a little overwhelmed trying to keep / catch up.


Thanks for the feedback. Fair enough.

Birders are a big component of iNat users, which is why you’ll get bird IDs almost immediately. (I often have RG ID’s on birds by the time iNat loads my observation list after submission. They’re that dedicated.) Butterfly and dragonfly fans are usually close behind; it’s true that the more “attractive” taxa have a bigger following.

I think that’s true just based on what gets hobbyist interest - bird-watching and insect collection have long had a hobbyist following while I think plant ID is often more restricted to those with professional qualifications. Also, you tend to be able to visually ID birds/butterflies instinctively, by color and pattern, while I’ve noticed amateurs come in excited about plant IDs and retreat quickly once they realize that obvious visual variations, like flower color, are often not the important key identifiers.


Some groups are more “mainstream” than others. Almost everyone knows what a monarch is, but who knows what a yellow spindle or wall screw-moss is? There is a good reason why birds tend to get identified so quickly, because more people know them.

Some taxa have a few insanely dedicated ID-ers who more or less keep pace with the supply. I am usually pretty good on keeping up with the ID-ing on marine mollusks from the geographical areas where I know the marine mollusk fauna well (Europe, the Caribbean, and the West Coast of North America).

However, during City Nature Challenge I made close to 2,000 observations in four days here in NYC (including a lot of plants), and I haven’t had time to do much else at all.

I have encountered this myself, when I am doing ID work in Orchidaceae (which I do a lot) I sometimes have to stop myself from clicking on the brightly colored blooming specimens and actually spend some time trying to ID some of the small, out of bloom observations.

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I think the other part of the challenge is that a flowering plant that is not flowering is much harder to identify (to your point, @afid) using most field guides or other available tools, so even if someone does upload observations of flower-bare plants, the chances are good that there is less interest among the “casual” identifiers cuz there is less satisfaction in trolling thru obs after obs that is difficult to ID. Plus (as I have ranted elsewhere), tools such as keys that do exist are often very hard for non-pros to use.

At the end of the day, charisma probably does influence IDs, but I suspect more because charisma influences people to be interested in the groups already and that manifests in iNat as more IDs. Causal direction probably doesn’t matter for the sake of this discussion tho :-)


It’s true that my bird observations often get multiple IDs within a few minutes of submission while my plant observations often take a few days to be ID’d. This is just the way it is, I’m afraid. I try not to get too obsessed with my observations being identified right away.

I think this is likely the main cause, along with geography and the fact that some taxa are much easier to identify from photos than others. Spiders, for the most part, require very close looks at their genitalia for species ID, and you often need to get a decent look at their eye arrangements to get to family. Some lichens require chemical staining.

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Bunches of good points throughout. My “trick” for good consistent IDs is to get to know your local plant people, either virtually or in person. Follow their feeds, and see if they’re interested in following you back. The “pros” will often value someone who takes care to do good plant observations, meaning making sure to get pictures of all the important parts. Those parts differ among types of plants, but interacting with ID-ers online will rapidly yield lots of tips on what they need to know. The really knowledgeable locals will probably be flipping through all the pictures of plants, and stopping to ID not the showiest flowers, but the clearest, best-cropped, best-angled, most-identifiable shots!


I have observed this to be true. In New Zealand, where our local node of iNaturalist is (to my knowledge) the only, or at least best known, platform of its type, there is an active community of identifiers so I tend to get identifications fairly quickly (within a couple of days, typically).

On the other hand, I have noticed that my Australian observations often take a while longer to get identified, if they get identified at all. To be sure, some take in the order of a couple of days, but many take a week or more and those that are difficult to identify may take a year or more if they get identified at all (that also may say something about the utility of the photos I attached to my older observations, but never mind). There is a community of active identifiers in Australia, but I wonder if it would be larger if iNaturalist was better known there, considering we also have QuestaGame (which appears to be very popular) and the Atlas of Living Australia.

I definitely get the impression that outreach is not reaching Australia! It would be interesting to see some stats on iNat growth there, compared to other places.


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